5 tips for boosting your financial health this Financial Literacy Month

First observed in 2004 and recognized each April thereafter in the United States, National Financial Literacy Month was created in an effort to shine a light on good money-management habits — and to urge Americans to adopt them.

And here at Arthur State Bank, of course, we like to seize every opportunity we can to educate interested customers on ways to improve their financial health. So, throughout the month of April, we’ll be sharing various financial tips on our social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. (Be sure to follow us on your favorite social platforms for these and other regular financial insights!)

Further, to round up all of the month’s money-management tips in one convenient place, here’s a rundown of all the Financial Literacy Month 2023 insights we’ll be sharing on social media:


  1. Enroll in Automatic Bill Pay — Every consumer’s bill-payment history is a major component of his or her credit score. And when a payment is missed, the negative impacts can be long-lasting. So, by signing up for automatic bill pay — a typically free-of-charge service that sees recurring bills automatically paid, usually via a credit card or funds held in a checking account — consumers can lower their chances of missing a payment and protect their credit score. Such automatic payments are usually set up with the company set to receive recurring payments, such as those for a utility bill, credit card or mortgage. They can also often be set up using a checking account’s online bill pay feature.


  1. Start saving for retirement as early as possible — Nearly all of us want to retire comfortably, with enough money saved up so that we can pay the bills (and maybe even enjoy our leisure activities of choice) without major concern that we’ll run out of funds. And of course, the sooner we can get started saving, the bigger we can build up our retirement fund — especially when the power of compound interest is factored in. So, no matter what your age or what stage of your career you may be in, it’s never too soon to start saving for retirement.
    Ready to start (or boost) your retirement savings today? Consider these 7 powerful ways to start building a retirement fund (or to boost your already-existing one).


  1. Automatically transfer a percentage of each of your paychecks to savings — To build up the amount of money you have in your savings account, consider setting up automatic transfers (typically moved from a checking account) that recur each time you get a paycheck. Thanks to the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon, the temptation to spend the money can be greatly reduced if it is automatically moved from checking to savings before you notice it’s there. And even if the amount you set up to be transferred each week, every other week or each month is a small one, it could add up to create significant savings over time, especially when stored away in a savings account that’s earning interest.


  1. Track your spending — By keeping a close eye on where your money goes each month, you can better identify any wasteful trends and tendencies that might be costing you a lot of money — and make moves to change them. This can be achieved the old-fashioned way by saving and reviewing receipts, or via any of the array of finance-related apps and software available in the digital age to help consumers track and evaluate their expenses. And when this is done, spotting and addressing even small recurring expenses can make a big difference. For example, a $5 spend at the coffee shop each workday may not seem like a lot. But when you notice that it’s adding up to $100 or more each month — money that you could be putting away in savings or devoting to more important priorities — it might spur you to brew your own coffee most days. A better approach might be to treat yourself to a splurge at the coffee shop just once or twice a week — and generate substantial savings by doing so.


  1. Set specific, measurable financial goals — When you make moves to improve your financial health, they don’t have to be drastic. In fact, by setting and meeting specific, measurable financial goals — and ones that are (at least initially) relatively small and easy to achieve — you’ll build confidence in your financial responsibility and increase the likelihood of creating sustainable, long-lasting financial habits. So whether your goal is to build an emergency fund, save for college or boost your credit score, it could be beneficial to start small and measure your progress — and once your initial goal is achieved, work toward larger ones.


Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

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Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.